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Phil Silvers Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trade Mark (3)  | Trivia (20)  | Personal Quotes (5)  | Salary (3)

Overview (5)

Born in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Died in Century City, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NamePhilip Silver
Nickname The King of Chutzpah
Height 6' 1" (1.85 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Phil Silvers was a comedic actor of Russian-Jewish descent, nicknamed as "The King of Chutzpah". He was best known for his starring role as Master Sergeant Ernest "Ernie" Bilko in the hit sitcom "The Phil Silvers Show" (1955-1959). He had roles in the comedy films "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963), and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1967), playing respectively the characters Otto Meyer and Marcus Lycus. Silvers was a compulsive gambler, and suffered from chronic depression.

In 1911, Silvers was born in Brooklyn, New York City. He was the 8th and youngest child born to Russian-Jewish immigrants Saul Silver (alias Saul Silversmith) and Sarah Handler. Saul was a sheet metal worker who was employed in the building industry. He had helped build a number of New York City's skyscrapers.

Silver started his career as an entertainer in 1922, at the age of 11. A frequent accident at New York City's movie theaters was for their film projector to break down. Someone had to keep the audience entertained during repairs, so Silver was hired to sing to them. Part of his reward was to attend the movie theater free of charge.

By 1924, Silvers performed as a professional singer in the Gus Edwards Revue. His employer was theater company owner Gus Edwards (1878-1945). He then took to working in vaudeville and as a burlesque comic.

In the 1930s, Silvers started appearing in Vitaphone short films. In 1939, Silvers made his Broadway debut in "Yokel Boy". The show was considered mediocre by critics, but Silvers gained acclaim in the press. He made his feature film debut in "Hit Parade of 1941". Silvers worked primarily as a character actor over the following decades, appearing in films produced by 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. When the studio system declined, Silvers initially returned to the theater.

He had a hit as a songwriter when he composed the lyrics of "Nancy (with the Laughing Face)" (1942) for singer Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), The song was apparently named after Frank's young daughter Nancy Sinatra (1940-).

Silvers did not become a household name until his starring role in the sitcom "The Phil Silvers Show" (1955-1959). It was a military comedy, starring Master Sergeant Ernest "Ernie" Bilko. Bilko was depicted as con-artist and gambler who could fast-talk people into complying with his schemes. The show lasted for 4 seasons, and 144 episodes. It found further success in syndication, and often ranks high in lists of popular sitcoms. ' Silvers returned to television stardom with "The New Phil Silvers Show" (1963-1964), where he played factory foreman Harry Grafton. Like Bilko, Grafton was depicted as a con-artist who owned his own company and run schemes on the side. Not as successful as its predecessor, the series lasted for a single season and 30 episodes.

Silvers enjoyed film stardom in the 1960s, though mostly playing supporting roles. He appeared mostly in American productions, but guest-starred in the British comedy film "Follow That Camel". It was thew 14th film in the long-running "Carry On" film series (1958-1992). The film was a parody depicting life in the Foreign Legion, and Silvers played the Bilko-like character of Sergeant Ernie Nocker. He earned a salary of 30,000 pounds, making him the highest-paid actor of the "Carru On" film series up to that point.

Silvers appeared frequently as a guest-star in then-popular sitcoms, such as "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Gilligan's Island". In 1972, Silvers survived a stroke, but was left with a permanently slurred speech. This effectively ended his theatrical career, but did not prevent him from appearing in further film and television roles.

Silvers made his last television appearance in an 1983 episode of the crime drama "CHiPs". He then went into retirement. He died in his sleep in 1985, while in Century City, California. His family attributed the death to unspecified natural causes. He was interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Silvers is still well-remembered as a comic actor. In 1996, TV Guide ranked him number 31 on its 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time list. The Hanna-Barbera characters Hokey Wolf and Top Cat were loosely based on his screen persona.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Dimos I

Spouse (2)

Evelyn Patrick (21 October 1956 - 28 June 1966) ( divorced) ( 5 children)
Jo-Carroll Dennison (2 March 1945 - 8 March 1950) ( divorced)

Trade Mark (3)

Horn-rimmed glasses
The greeting "Gladaseeya!" (glad to see you)
Frequently played deceitful con-artists

Trivia (20)

Following his death, he was interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.
He wrote the lyrics to the Jimmy Van Heusen song "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)" for friend Frank Sinatra's firstborn child Nancy Sinatra.
His Gladasya production company co-produced Gilligan's Island (1964).
Had five daughters with his second wife, Evelyn Patrick: Tracey Silvers (1957), Nancey Silvers, Cathy Silvers, Candace Silvers (1961) and Laury Silvers (1963). Grandfather of Jaclyn Sara Silvers and Phillip Frankland Lee.
Enjoyed a long string of Broadway successes, most notably "High Button Shoes" (1948), "Top Banana" (1951, for which he won a Tony Award), "Do-Re-Mi" (1961), "How the Other Half Loves" (1970), and the revival of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1971, and another Tony Award).
He was a compulsive gambler. Once, when complaining about his lack of work and being broke in Los Angeles, he absent-mindedly pulled out a large wad of bills. When asked about why did not live on that money, he replied it did not count because it was only his gambling money.
Daughter Tracey Silvers is a film producer and writer.
Has won two Tony Awards as Best Actor (Musical): in 1952 for "Top Banana", a role that he recreated in the film version of the same name, Top Banana (1954), and in 1972 for a revival of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". He was also nominated in the same category in 1961 for "Do Re Mi".
Father-in-law of writer/director/composer Iren Koster.
Later in life, after having cataract surgery on both eyes and with lenses then implanted in his eyes, he no longer needed eyeglasses. However, he continued to wear them without any glass in them--just the frames--because his glasses were, after all, his trademark.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 740-741. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons (1998).
He was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6370 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on November 1, 2000.
He suffered from chronic depression and a nervous breakdown in 1962. He also suffered a stroke in 1972 and was left with slurred speech.
Silvers' sight was failing fast, and to compensate for this fact he was wearing contact lenses as well as glasses. It was a familiar sight to see Jim Dale, Peter Butterworth, and Silvers scatting around the sand for a lost lens while filming Carry On... Follow That Camel (1967).
Appears as Master Sergeant Ernest G. (Ernie) Bilko on a 44¢ USA commemorative postage stamp, issued 11 August 2009, in the Early TV Memories issue honoring The Phil Silvers Show (1955).
Discovered by impresario Gus Edwards and hired to perform as a singer, in vaudeville, at age 13. Three years later he appeared as a comedian in burlesque shows, often with his long-standing partner and friend Herbie Faye. He made his Broadway debut in the musical "Yokel Boy" in 1939.
His eyesight was so bad that he developed a fear of falling into the orchestra pit when he was on stage. In 1962, he turned down the leading role of Pseudolus in the original stage production of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" in part for this reason (he also thought the role was too much like "Sgt. Bilko in a toga"). The role eventually went to Zero Mostel. Silvers played the role of Marcus Lycus in the 1966 film version. In 1972, he played Pseudolus in the Broadway revival, which closed early after he suffered a stroke. The performance won him his second Tony Award. Debbie Reynolds also mentioned this fear, during a 2013 interview on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (2005). She said that in the early 1950s, she and Silvers were part of the last vaudeville touring company, before the theatre circuit closed. She said that he used to tie a rope around his waist with the other end tied to a piano leg, so he would not fall into the orchestra pit.
Delivered the eulogy at fellow comedian Rags Ragland's funeral.
His first wife, Jo-Carroll Dennison, was Miss America of 1942.
His second wife filed for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty in 1966.

Personal Quotes (5)

I'm an impatient comedian. And I feel the audience is as impatient as me.
Treat acting as a business and don't let it go to your head. You don't want to end up like my friends.
[on his early films] I always played the same type role. I was always cast as Blinky the hero's good friend, who told the girl, usually Betty Grable, in the last reel that the hero really loved her.
I can make any villain lovable and sympathetic. Maybe it's because as a small boy I wanted to grow up to become a man who could fix horse races or second-deal himself four aces in a poker game. About the only thing I could do was become an actor and play the part.
I only smile in public. When I'm alone, I just sort of stare. People know that we actors are frightened. And when they read this, they'll know that I'm depressed.

Salary (3)

You're in the Army Now (1941) $3 .734
All Through the Night (1942) $250 @week
Follow That Camel (1967) £40,000

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